Book review: The Mindful Writer by Dinty W. Moore

‘The Mindful Writer’ is written by Dinty Moore, a well established author and writing teacher. Moore is a Buddhist, but it is certainly not necessary to be a Buddhist to find inspiration from these widely applicable words of wisdom from successful writers. The author was already discovering Buddhist truths in his process of writing before he became a Buddhist. He says that his work is not so much influenced by his Buddhism, as that his writing process is confirmed by Buddhist philosophy. There is very little direct mention of Buddhism and his warm, compassionate writing style is very appealing.

This is a mindfully written book about mindfulness. As a writer myself, who writes from the heart, I was very interested to read it, and I was not disappointed. I would highly recommend this book for any aspiring writer, for those looking for fresh inspiration, or for those times of stagnation and ‘writer’s block’. It is also nice to read confirmation of your own process. I like the format; in the main section of the book each chapter begins with a quote by a famous writer, followed by discussion. The book ends with a chapter of prompts for mindful writing, which are useful for getting started or shifting blocks. The style is easy to read and digest.

What made this book stand out for me was that Moore focuses on the deeper meanings and inner process of being a writer, the heart of it, rather than the technical skills. On the qualities needed to be a writer he says, “Are you still insatiably curious…Are you feeling as well as thinking…to be so open that it actually does hurt?” Moore writes on finding your authentic voice, freedom, opening the heart and writing for the love of it, but points out, “Write with your passionate heart, but edit with your calm brain”.

There are also practical suggestions, such as the quote from William Faulkner, “kill your darlings”, meaning that there may be times you have to find the courage to cut even writing that you love, if it does not fit. Sometimes being too precious about certain passages or phrases may actually hold us up from moving forward.

You know it’s a worthwhile book when you want to highlight almost every sentence. There are many humorous metaphors and clever analogies that ring true. For example, “It helps me to think that I have a certain number of bad sentences stacked up inside of me…and they have to come out, like the dried glue often found at the tip of the tube; dried glue that has to be squeezed through the hole before you can access the good glue necessary to finish your current project.”

I would say much of the philosophy and advice in this book is relevant to most forms of creative endeavour, not just writing. Overall a great read and would make a good gift for the writer in your life.

Janey Colbourne 2016

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